Let the Devil Wear Black - Memoirs of an analyst

James F. Linden - Writer ...
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Resources - C.I.M.A.H.

More about CIMAH and what it means to a company.

Chapter 9

CIMAH stands for Chemical Industrial Major Accident Hazard and has since been replaced by COMAH - Control Of Major Accident Hazards. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is responsible in both cases.

The company used to go through a regular CIMAH case. They passed each time (as far as I know, they never failed) and they all seemed rather relieved.

Whilst all of the industrial tribunal stuff was going on, I would come up with ideas of things I could write computer programs about that would stretch both my imagination and my programming abilities - with the latter, either venturing into new territory or refining my knowledge of ground that I had already started to explore.

One of them was having a process that took place all of the time, running alongside a process that you could interact with. I decided to take the idea of our CIMAH case incident and have a go at writing a game/simulation that would have a radar with a continually updated screen with a number of aircraft on it, running alongside a means of communicating with each of them in the form of sending instructions such as change altitude, speed and so on.

The latter would be effected best by typing the first two letters of each aeroplane's call-sign which would bring up their information in a panel on the right which I could edit in real-time with any changes taking time to happen such as a change of bearing taking time to change the direction of the aircraft. Once a particular aeroplane had cleared the screen, its identity would be changed and a new aeroplane would make its way onto the 'playing area' thus keeping the total number of aeroplanes the same.

The program could either be used as though you were an air-traffic controller, worryingly overburdened and trying not to get aeroplanes to crash mid-air or you could be some sort of nut-job, trying to get them to crash.

In the case of the former, once an aeroplane had cleared the screen, it would be given a new identity and put on a collision course with another and it was the ATC's job to give them instructions to stop this from happening. In the case of the latter, they would never be given collision courses and it was the nutter's job to make them collide. In both cases, scoring would be based upon how well they managed to perform their particular chosen role.

One idea I had would be to make it more interesting by having some areas that would be particularly bad/good for a pair of aeroplanes to have a mid-air collision over. One being a chemical site - now that's a coincidence isn't it? Definitely not. Any collision over the site would take out air traffic within a couple of miles of the incident, just like an Ethylene Oxide tank exploding.

I had to find out more about the process of what went on regarding questions about aeroplanes flying over sites so I contacted the local HSE office and got talking. I asked about it and rather sensibly, the air lanes that run nationally that cover the centre of England, right from London, up to Manchester and beyond are not an issue - the most dangerous parts of flight are landing and taking off. A CIMAH case only covers low-altitude air traffic and therefore covered the low-level flights that we were always experiencing over the site.

This was just the frightfully civilised prelude — a mendacious fa├žade — covering over the bloody battle to come.

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